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Wisconsin utilities seeking rate hikes

Chris Rickert, The Wisconsin State Journal  


    May 19—Four of Wisconsin's five investor-owned utilities are asking state regulators for permission to hike electricity rates in 2024, the state watchdog Citizens Utility Board said Thursday.

    Increases range from 2.5% at We Energies to as much as 18% for Alliant Energy customers, CUB said — although Alliant disputed that interpretation. The increases, if approved, represent hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue and come on top of utility increases that took effect in January for all five of the state's major utilities: Alliant, Madison Gas and Electric, We Energies, Wisconsin Public Service and Xcel.

    "CUB's analysts and economists will be evaluating these proposals and look for opportunities for savings, supporting the (state Public Service Commission) staff in its audits," said Tom Content, CUB executive director. "We remain concerned that our electricity rates are higher than nearly all other Midwest states and that our utilities are earning profits well above what they need."

    In the Madison area, MGE is proposing to increase electricity rates by 3.75% and gas rates by 2.56% in 2024. MGE spokesperson Dana Brueck said increased electricity revenues would go toward solar and grid-modernization projects, while increased gas revenues would go toward modernizing the distribution system and covering the cost of uncollected bills, such as those seen during the pandemic.

    "We are sensitive to any rate impacts on customers," Brueck said in a statement, "which is why we continue to work hard to contain costs throughout the organization while advancing cleaner energy for the benefit of all customers."

    Under the utility's plan, the monthly electric bill for the typical user would rise from $98 this year to $103 in 2024. From 2016 through 2025, the typical customer would see an average 1.5% increase in their gas bills, she said.

    Alliant Energy subsidiary Wisconsin Power and Light — which provides service to much of the area outside of Madison, stretching from Plainville south to Monroe — is asking for a 14.25% increase in electric rates, but a requested surcharge related to higher-than-anticipated fuel costs would bump that up to 18.4%, CUB said.

    It's also seeking a 6.3% increase in its natural gas rates, CUB said.

    Alliant spokesperson Tony Palese said he couldn't "speak for how CUB is arriving at some of the numbers they've compiled" but that "overall, our electric customers will experience a single-digit increase of 8.3% in 2024."

    The changes would add about $13 a month to the average residential electric customer's bill and about $5.30 a month to the average residential natural gas customer's bill in 2024.

    "Alliant Energy is following the plans outlined in our Clean Energy Blueprint to accelerate the transition to a cleaner, more cost-effective and diverse energy portfolio," Palese said in a statement. "This includes retiring older coal-fired units while adding over 1,000 (megawatts) of solar energy and nearly 275 MW of battery energy storage."

    Auditors with the state Public Service Commission, which controls utility rates, are expected to be done with their reviews of the utilities' requests by this summer, when CUB and other parties to the cases will be allowed to provide their feedback, CUB said.

    There will be a public hearing and comment period in the fall, CUB said, and the decisions in the cases are expected by the end of the year.



    (c)2023 The Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, Wis.)

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